A principal point of reference for the dating is the mention of Mainz as a place of coronation. The German kings were usually crowned in Aachen, and the naming of Mainz in this connection most likely refers to the coronation either of the counter-king Rudolf of Rheinfelden in 1077 or that of Emperor Henry V in 1106.
The poem consists of three parts: the religious or spiritual history of the world and its salvation, from the creation to the time of Anno II; the secular history of the world up to the foundation of the German cities (including the theory of the world empires derived from the vision of the Book of Daniel); and finally the "Vita Annonis", or the biography of Bishop Anno II.
A recent interpretation (Dunphy, Herweg) sees this threefold structure in the context of the poet's remark in the prologue that in the beginning God created two worlds, one spiritual and one earthly, and then he mixed these to create the first human, who, being both, was a "third world". The poem then charts spiritual and secular history and finally shows the two culminating in the biography of the man who stands at the centrepoint of history. This is a remarkable and highly original historiographical approach.
Parts of the Annolied were incorporated into the later Middle High German Kaiserchronik and the two works are often considered together.
No manuscript now exists, but the survival of the text was secured by Martin Opitz, who edited and published it in 1639 (reprinted in 2003).
German origin myths
The poem includes short sections on four German peoples, the Bavarians, Franks, Saxons and Thuringians, telling in each case of their origins in the classical near east. These are typical origine gentis myths such as those found in most parts of Europe at the time. For example, the Annolied is the first text to give what later became quite a popular motiv whereby the ancestors of the Bavarians migrated from Armenia.
Excerpt in Early Middle High German
Duo sich Beirelant wider in virmaz, Die mêrin Reginsburch her se bisaz, Dâ vanter inne Helm unti brunigen, Manigin helit guodin, Die dere burg hû[h]din. Wiliche Knechti dir wêrin, Deist in heidnischin buochin mêri. Dâ lisit man Noricus ensis, Daz diudit ein suert Beierisch, Wanti si woldin wizzen Daz inge[m]ini baz nibizzin, Die man dikke durch den helm slûg; Demo liute was ie diz ellen gût. Dere geslehte dare quam wîlin êre Von Armenie der hêrin, Dâ Nôê ûz der arkin gîng, Dûr diz olizuî von der tûvin intfieng: Iri zeichin noch du archa havit Ûf den bergin Ararat. Man sagit daz dar in halvin noch sîn Die dir Diutischin sprecchin, Ingegin India vili verro. Peiere vûrin ie ziwîge gerno: Den sigin den Cêsar an un gewan Mit bluote mûster in geltan.
- Roediger, Max (ed.), 1895. Das Annolied; = MGH, Deutsche Chroniken I, 2. Berlin [Critical edition].
- Dunphy, Graeme (ed.) 2003. Opitz's Anno: The Middle High German Annolied in the 1639 Edition of Martin Opitz. Scottish Papers in Germanic Studies, Glasgow. [Diplomatic edition with English translation].
- Mathias Herweg, Ludwigslied, De Heinrico, Annolied: Die deutschen Zeitdichtungen des frühen Mittelalters im Spiegel ihrer wissenschaftlichen Rezeption und Erforschung, Wiesbaden: Reichert, 2002.